BOAT TEST: REGAL 52 SPORTS COUPE
American family boatbuilder Regal hits the high notes with its a 52-foot flagship, and floating stage ripe for entertaining. DAVID LOCKWOOD reports from the box seat
I think most of us know something about American boatbuilder Regal, one of the big players on the global stage, but a standout because it remains family owned and, moreover, focussed on innovation. Instead of held to ransom by accountants and shareholders, Regal thinks for itself and outside the cookie-cutter square. You get more hips and curves, more designer touches, but also more of the things we boaters covet: deck space, integrated seating, natural light in the accommodation, head and shoulder room, and bling.
The new 52 Sports Coupe (formerly the 5260 Sport Yacht) that recently sauntered into Sydney Harbour is a case in point. Here's a big sportsyacht that pops out of its footprint like a pavilion or stage. Towering above the waterline, the high-volume boat takes some eye-catching twist and turns but, once your set foot aboard, there's a wealth of clever design that works on more than a visual level.
But in the true American fashion, the 52 Sports Coupe has been supersized. From the garage to the cockpit, the sun lounges to the saloon lunch setting, from the gargantuan aft stateroom befitting of a 60-footer, the Regal flagship aims to please with more of everything. But while the boat measures 16.2 metres or 53-feet overall, there's a lot of rake in the stem. So, Regal has done a good job of maximising volume on the available waterline length. Like I said, this is a floating stage that pops out of its footprint.
Externally, the Euro styling is courtesy of Italy's T4 Yachts design house. Internally, the finishes are quite unlike the multinational American marine giants that are still thinking introspectively. Rather than lock its occupants away indoors in private dens, the big Regal puts its crew on show on plush seats, sun lounges and beds with innerspring mattresses. All the while light streams in through the panorama windows, a sunroof, skylights and plenty of portholes.
But in keeping with discerning would-be owners' demands, Regal offers hitherto new levels of options on its 52 flagship. There are two different cockpit seating layouts with tender garage (as tested) or extended seating, four different accommodation plans with two or three cabins, various hull colours and matching boot stripes, choices of interior design packs, electronics and AV systems, of course. This way, you can have a hand in building your boat.
While the 52 we drove - whose owner has a big family and outgrew his Regal 40-odd footer - had soft back enclosures to its hardtop (we hear the factory will soon offer a lock-up layout), among other things that would rid the boat of the stainless steel support strut or pole that holds up the hardtop. It's one of few details we weren't so keen on (at least not without a matching dancer).
It was mid-winter when the big Regal 52 Sports Coupe idled up to our boat, its black hull sides adding to the drama or, rather, what might have been. Even Blind Freddy could tell by the wash, if not the familiar mechanical sounds, that the boat is pod-driven. There are twin Volvo Penta IPS 600s, the 435hp common rail diesel engines that are commonplace these days. They were a great match and added to the cruising pleasure.
With a joystick and aft docking camera, the skipper had the Regal waiting expectedly off our transom without a whiff of trepidation. But before long, the sky clouded over and we were really mid-winter boating. A return visit some days later for this photo shoot saw yet worse conditions. But despite teaming rain, alpine winds, and a rough swell, the Regal revealed its alter ego.
At first glance, you might mistake the Sports Coupe for being a fair-weather, lid down, covers off, open-air cruiser. That it is. But just as quickly, with rear covers zipped in place and others pulled over the external sunpads, you have a watertight cruising conveyance that even in the bleak conditions was tres comfortable.
Additionally, the sight lines are excellent to all parts of the boat and, with the wipers running and the especially high helm position, you drive with a sense of authority, as though you are indeed on a stage peering down at the boating minions, the navigation markers and water rushing along below.
At anchor, the Regal reveals itself as a great entertainer. The swimplatform is deep enough to hangout, there were owner-specified stainless steel rails for mounting a cutting board with rodholders, and moulded staircases that lead to the sidedecks and foredeck sunpad (with tilt headrests) thereafter. The wet locker, fender storage, pop-up fender hanging cleats, and recessed windlass add to the boat's useability.
A rear-mounted Fusion stereo remote lets you crank-up the party, while blue LED lights add to the celebratory ambience after dark. But the central tender garage with sunpad atop is the highlight. You press a button and the door opens to reveal a recessed Avon 260 with 8hp outboard. Press another button and the tender rises on its moulded platform ready for dispatch. Grab the winch remote, pull out the folding launch ramp with rollers, and you're ready to zoom to the beach or café.
Press another button and the tender-support floor rises even further to allow access into the engineroom. Although there is a cockpit inspection hatch, this is the way to go, with abundant servicing room around the aft-mounted six-cylinder 5.5lt blocks and pods. I also note a Westerbeke generator with sound shield, Reverso oil-change system, alloy wing water tanks, fuel forward on the fulcrum, and engineroom camera. Air-con was fitted but a unit servicing the upper saloon is optional. I'd get it.
With a big family in tow, the owner opted out of teak decks and chose clip-in easy-clean carpet instead. Fair enough and a big saving. The fixed seating plan is interesting: the four headrests on the rearmost section of the undercover U-shaped lunch lounge detach and relocate on the aft edge of the rear sunpad. This way, you can create a cool outdoor lounge for riding with the wind in your hair, kind of like doubling on an oversized bike.
Once you reach your destination, there's an amenities centre with fridge and icemaker, Kenyon 240V griddle, sink and drop-down flatscreen TV. The latter is clearly viewable from the eight-person lounge set around the custom-designed folding teak table. Ventilation comes courtesy of opening side windows, a centre-opening electric windscreen pane, and the sunroof. Yet another button sees a forward lounge backrest rise into position. Retracted you can create a post-lunch daybed.
The interior of the 52 Sports Coupe calls when it comes time to hit the hay. The sense of space is almost overwhelming, with the lower saloon featuring a huge Ultraleather upholstered C-shaped lounge for crowd with twin pop-up footrests for owners before a flatscreen TV (with input form the GPS chartplotter). The area is topped with a skylight and surrounded by portlights. When not dining at the loose table, the whole thing converts to a double bed in just minutes. A CCTV camera lets the owner keep check on the kids below.
Traced by Corian counters and a stainless steel splashback, the galley is ready to serve. You get two-burner recessed hob, convection microwave, twin stainless steel sinks, domestic fridge/freezer and abundant storage including underfloor recess. A central vac system will help with the clean-up, but the Bose AV system is sure to extend the party. And the light cherrywood-and-holly flooring and high-gloss cherrywood joinery is lively, but easy to maintain with a wipe clean.
The piece de resistance is the full-beam stateroom with aft-facing queen bed facing a recessed TV and split shower and head. Views unfold out the fixed portlights, over the built-in club lounge to port or cupboards to starboard. Meanwhile, cedar-lined hanging lockers take care of the clobber. All very roomy, private and befitting of a much bigger boat.
The boat's second cabin is a VIP number in the bow with island double berth and steps alongside to assist with access. Its en suite with big separate shower, air-con and extractor fan, has a second door so as to double as a dayhead. Although a third cabin is an option, this is the layout for heading away with family or another couple. It's just so roomy.
Regal's generous application of space extends to the helm where, it must be said, other marques are too often tight. The sprawling grey dash panels will help reduce reflected glare in the windscreen, while twin electrically-adjustable helm seats with fold-down bolsters let your partner ride shotgun. The carbon dash adds to the racy feel, with a red night-light reflecting the 52 Sports Couple as coastal-cruise capable. Water capacity is average.
The electronics include twin Garmin 12in touchscreen multifunction nav screens and matching autopilot, analogue engine gauges with electronic fuel-data feedback, rocker switches for everything from sunroof to underwater lights and windscreen defrost, chain counter, trim tabs, EVC engine shifts and the IPS joystick. Along with the wheel, everything falls to hand and you can easily see the starboard-edge of the swimplatform for docking. Anchor stowed, sun breaking through, we're all set to go.
FACTS & FIGURES
REGAL 52 SPORTS COUPE
With half fuel, half water and four adults aboard, the 52 Sports Coupe was eager. On the joystick alone you could idle out of the bay and around the moorings at 5.4kts. Use the throttles and you're doing 6.8kts. Despite all the volume up top, the boat is slippery thanks to what Regal calls its Ocean Trac hull, with stepped running surface that harnesses air to provide lift. Additionally, there's something called an Optimum Performance System that employs water ballast to improve acceleration and then, once up and running, it drains free to provide a low-drag 'ship'.
During our sea trials this translated to a top speed of 28.2kts at 3500rpm, but other sources point to 30 to 31kts. Maybe there was some growth on the hull. In any case, you can expect a safe cruising range of up to 300nm at 20 to 22kts and 3000 to 3200rpm. Not that you will be leaving you homeport too often. Buyers of social boats like this demand more of everything these days. Except for noise - this is a quiet express cruiser - Regal's flagship delivers. The boat ticks loads of boxes. The stage is set. The rest is up to you.
PRICE AS TESTED
Approx $1.4 million w/ twin Volvo Penta IPS 600s, and options
Hull colour, Euro cockpit layout with tender garage and launch system, Avon RIB with outboard, electric cockpit grill, power helm seats, amenities centre, foredeck chaise lounge, stateroom settee, VIP island berth, high-gloss cherrywood upgrade, upgraded AV systems, full Garmin electronics package, underwater lighting, and more
$1.25 million w/ twin Volvo Penta IPS 600s
MATERIAL: GRP w/ glass encapsulated stringers and composite decks
TYPE: Patented variable deadrise stepped hull and water ballast (at rest up to planing speed)
LENGTH OVERALL: 16.2m
BERTHS: 4 + 2 + 1
HOLDING TANK: 246lt
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Volvo Penta IPS600s
TYPE: Six-cylinder four-stroke common rail diesel
RATED HP: 435
DRIVES: IPS with T2 props
At Rose Bay Marina,
594 New South Head Road,
Rose Bay, NSW, 2029
Phone: (02) 9328 0999
Amid the subdued American boatbuilding seascape, Regal stands out as bedrock brand, a sound foundation upon which Australians have invested considerable time and money over the years. The family-owned factory delivers but also goes that bit further in respect of innovation and performance. The 5200 Sports Coupe with IPS 600s is competition for more expensive European boats. It's a lot of boat for your greenback and just a great stage with which to entertain family and friends.
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